Ultra-right-wing Israeli �peace activist� Moshe Feiglin, who
placed 20th on the Knesset list for the Likud party led by former Prime
Minister Binyamin �Bibi� Netanyahu, was knocked down the roster 16 places last Thursday.
This came after Netanyahu appealed the Likud primary results to the courts.
Once again, Netanyahu has made this move to appeal to �centrist� voters. And
once again, as so often has happened in his political career, Netanyahu is
showing rank hypocrisy.
Netanyahu�s gripe with Feiglin is that Feiglin is an �extremist.�
He�s a proponent of the �Greater Israel� philosophy, which dictates that Israel
should not allow the existence of a Palestinian state but, rather, should annex
the West Bank and Gaza. The ideal situation for Feiglin would be an Israel
occupying all the land west of the Jordan River and that only had Arab
residents that had sworn loyalty oaths to the government and vowed to accept second-class
citizenship status in perpetuity.
Here�s the rub: Netanyahu believes pretty much the same
The former prime minister�s father, Benzion Netanyahu, is
one of the world�s leading authorities on the history of Spanish Jews. He is
also described by many in the know as the �elder statesman� of Revisionist
Zionism, the far-right version of the Jewish nationalist philosophy espoused
first by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Benzion Netanyahu, now in his nineties, was once
the executive director of the U.S. wing of the New Zionist Organization of
This was a period during which the U.K., which held the
League of Nations mandate over Palestine, had designated the military wing of
the Revisionist movement, the Irgun, as a terrorist organization. And the
British had done this with good reason: The Irgun had been targeting both
British authorities and Palestinian civilians -- and even fellow Jews -- for
several years. Comparatively speaking, the Haganah, the militia that eventually
became the IDF, was downright restrained by comparison, at least until the
1948-49 war began. The Irgun�s emblem bore the words Rak kach (�Only
thus�) below the image of a hand gripping a rifle superimposed over Palestine,
as well as all of Jordan. (Notably, the late Meir Kahane chose the name of his
Kach party from the Irgun motto.)
The elder Netanyahu has claimed that his active association
with the Revisionist movement ended with the death of Jabotinsky in 1940. (He
had been one of the man�s top aides.) However, Benzion�s Netanyahu�s leadership
over the Revisionist movement in the U.S. is confirmed in a 2005 article by
Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff on Jewish reaction to the Holocaust published
by the Theodor Herzl Foundation.
Benzion Netanyahu has also claimed that he never had any
association with Menachem Begin, but Bibi himself undermined this notion when
he recently said at a news conference, �The last time that Jabotinsky, Begin,
and Netanyahu engaged in public service for the Jewish people was during the
World War in an attempt to save European Jewry from annihilation.� As Bibi was
born in 1949, the obvious conclusion was that his father had worked with Ze�ev �Benny�
Begin�s father, the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and the grandfather of
Ze�ev Jabotinsky, who was also present at the news conference.
So we know the tree from which the Bibi apple fell. But is
it fair to condemn the son for the sins of the father? What evidence do we have
that Netanyahu fils shares the views of his father?
According to Elfi Pallis, who currently writes for the Guardian
newspaper in the U.K., while serving as deputy foreign minister under Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir (another Revisionist), Binyamin Netanyahu remarked that
Israel should have taken advantage of the Tiananmen Square massacre, when the
world�s media were focusing on that crisis, and expelled large numbers of Arabs
from the Palestinian Territories. But, he claimed, the idea didn�t have any
support, although he still believed it would have been the right thing to do.
The quote can be found in the article �The Likud Party: A
Primer,� which appeared in the Winter 1992 edition of the Journal of
Palestine Studies on page 57. Pallis cites an Israeli weekend newspaper
called Hotam. Veteran anti-Zionist Alexander Cockburn also cited the
speech at Bar-Ilan University where Netanyahu made these remarks in the January
8, 1990, edition of The Nation.
Lest there be any doubt, the English-language (and
right-wing) Jerusalem Post reported on November 19, 1989, that Netanyahu
had made these remarks at Bar-Ilan, stating that Israel had failed to exploit �politically
favorable situations� when �the damage would have been relatively small.� The Post
quotes Netanyahu directly: �I still believe that there are opportunities to
expel many people.�
Sure, that was nearly 20 years ago, but can we say that a
Netanyahu so willing to court the political clout of Benny Begin, a proponent
of forced expulsion en masse, has changed all that much? I don�t think
that we can.
Jabotinsky famously wrote in his essay �The Iron Wall,�
published in the 1920s, that no accommodation would ever be made between the
Arabs of Palestine and the Jews making aliyah. This idea informed the
policies of his followers as they entered politics. Binyamin Netanyahu should
be made to face the legacy he bears and admit that the difference between him
and Feiglin is marginal at best.
E. Mathis is a medical editor, Holocaust historian, and adjunct professor of
English and humanities at Villanova University.